Anti-Judaism and the Council of Nicea

Richard ‘Aharon’ Chaimberlin, Litt.D.

THE COUNCIL OF NICEA was convened in 325 CE[1] (AD) by Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire. Constantine, a worshipper of the “Sun God,” technically “converted” to Christianity. His reign marked the alliance of church and state. Christians were no longer to be persecuted by the pagans. Instead, Christians[2] would persecute other Christians with a zeal and a vengeance that would shock the pagans. More Christians were slain (by other Christians!) in the first 100 years after Nicea than had been killed by pagans in the previous three centuries.

     Constantine, only one year after convening the Council of Nicea, had his own son (Crispus) put to death. Later he suffocated Fausta (his wife) in an overheated bath. Then he had his sister’s son flogged to death and her husband strangled.[3] It was also during the reign of Constantine that the cross became a sacred symbol of Christianity, just as it was among various cultures which predated Christianity.

     Throughout his reign, Constantine treated the bishops as political aids. He agreed to enforce whatever opinion that the majority of the bishops formulated.



SRAEL rose up against the Roman occupiers in 68 CE, a war in which the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was destroyed in 70 CE, and ended when over 900 Jewish men, women, and children committed mutual suicide on Masada rather than surrender to the Roman army in 73 CE. The total number of Jews who were murdered, starved to death, or who died due to disease and privation was 1,300,000 out of a population of 2 million.

Because of a high birth rate and an undying hatred of the Romans, Israel felt strong enough to rise up against the Romans again with a revolt that began in 132 CE. However, Israel was totally destroyed as a nation with the defeat of Bar Kochba (a false messiah) in 135 CE. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered. Most of the survivors were dispersed into the Galut (Diaspora or Exile), many of whom were sold into slavery. The city of Jerusalem was turned into a completely pagan city by the Romans, with a temple to Jupiter (Zeus) erected on the Temple Mount.

The final and utter defeat of Israel of Israel was seen by many Christians as a sign that Israel was rejected by her God. The “Church” was seen as the “new Israel,” replacing the Jews as the people of God, who were seen as the “old Israel.” Today this is known as Replacement Theology. All the promises of God went to the “Church,” whereas the curses went to the Jews, according to this blasphemous theology.

By the time Constantine called the first general church council together at Nicea in 325 CE, anti-Semitism was already endemic in what had become apostate Christianity. The Council of Nicea was attended by 318 bishops, none of whom were of Jewish extraction. In fact, no Jewish believers were even invited, even though Messianic Judaism continued to persist among many Jewish believers, as well as Gentile God-fearers.

Although Passover was still celebrated by the Gentile Christian church, the Gentiles began to see a need to differentiate “their” Passover from the “Jewish” Passover. The bishops at Nicea decided to move the Christian celebration of Passover to the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover, which always falls on the 14th of Abib (Nisan), which can fall on any day of the week. Centuries later, the very name Passover (or Pesach) became distasteful to the Gentile church, and the term “Easter” (from the pagan goddess Ishtar) was adopted in place of Passove. In addition, the calendar was finally manipulated to remove any direct connection with the celebration of the Jewish Passover. In 1989, for instance, the “Christian” observance of Easter was almost a month before Passover.

The first edict in favor of the “Venerable Day of the Sun” (Sunday) was made at this Council. Although some Christians had begun observing Sun Day before Nicea, most Christians generally observed the seventh day Sabbath according to the Biblical commandment before Nicea.

It was also at the Council of Nicea that the standard creed for the Trinity was formulated, consisting of belief in a Three-Person Godhead, co-equal, co-eternal, and co-substantial (of the same substance). Belief in the Trinity became mandatory, and those who did not hold to the belief in Trinity as constituted by Nicea were subject to tremendous persecution. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, were murdered by the “Church” after Nicea for not holding to this doctrine. In large part, Nicea was the genuine “birthplace” of the Catholic Church, the direct result of the marriage of Church and State.

     Civil legislation enforced the decrees of the Council of Nicea. This was a victory of civil legislation over truth by civil legislation. Constantine, as Emperor, presided over the entire Council. The decisions of the 318 church bishops were endorsed by civil law and backed by military power.

The churches which flourished in worldly wealth were the primary churches represented by this Council. The poor and humble churches could not afford to send representatives over a thousand miles away. The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “Some bishops, blinded by the splendor of the court, went so far as to laud the emperor as an angel of God, as a sacred being, and to prophesy that he would, like the Son of God, reign in heaven.” [4]

Nicea, with its theological anti-Judaism, laid the foundation for the anti-Semitic legislation and judgments of later church councils. The Council of Antioch (341 CE) prohibited Christians from celebrating Passover with the Jews. The Council of Laodicea in the same century forbade Christians from observing the Jewish (and biblical) Sabbath. (Prior to this time, Christianity was somewhat divided, with some Christians observing the Sabbath, some observing Sunday, and some observing both!) Christians were also forbidden from receiving gifts from Jews or matzo[5] from Jewish festivals as well as other “impieties.” [6]

It wasn’t all bad news in those early centuries; Judaism was not a “prohibited sect,” according to the Codex Theodosianus of 438 CE. Rabbis were entitled to the same privileges as the Christian clergy. Jews were not to be disturbed on their Sabbath or Feast Days. Their synagogues were not to be attacked, violated, burned, or confiscated. However, conversion was a one-way street. Jews could convert to Christianity, and were encouraged to do so. However, Christians were forbidden to convert to Judaism. Also, Jews were forbidden to have Christian slaves, but Christians could own Jewish slaves. Christians were forbidden under penalty of death to marry Jews. (This was kind of a blessing for the Jews, who didn’t have to worry about intermarriage decimating the ranks of the Jews as we see happening today.) Jewish tribunals were considered valid only in matters purely religious. The Fiscus Judaicus  (Jewish tax) from earlier centuries was maintained, a tax which only Jews were required to pay to government authorities.

The few protections offered by the Codex Judaicus were relatively short-lived. It wasn’t many decades until attacks on Jews and their synagogues became commonplace. The Jew was a second-class citizen, somewhat protected by law, but merely tolerated, something akin to the dhimmi status that is given to non-Muslims in Islamic countries. However, these were the “good old days” compared to the horrors that would be inflicted upon the Jews in later centuries by the “Church triumphant.” Rav Shaul (Paul) commanded Christian gentiles to “provoke the Jews to jealousy” with their righteous living. Christians did end up provoking the Jews, so they got it half right.

Considering the rampant anti-Semitism at the Council of Nicea, I am both surprised and disappointed when I see even Messianic Jews quote decisions from the Council of Nicea in support of certain theologies and creeds. The Council of Nicea (the first genuinely Roman Catholic council) was very creedal oriented. Creeds (what you believe) is far more important than what you do. In Judaism, observance of the mitzvoth (commandments) is the litmus test of being a good Jew. Little emphasis is placed upon creeds.

The emphasis upon creeds in the Christian church resulted in the deaths of millions of martyrs and “heretics.” Christian love and charity were sorely lacking, even to other Christians. In fact, a Jew usually had a far better chance of surviving than a Christian who was deemed to be a heretic.

I am grateful to live in a society in which honest differences of opinion can exist. Yeshua said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” [7] This is far more important than any creed formulated by any church council.

I would like to conclude with the following comments: There is a world of difference between the genuine followers of Yeshua and the pretenders. We highly esteem genuine Christians who are truly born-again of the Ruakh (Spirit) of God. We do not intend to slander the true disciples of Yeshua, whether they be Jews or Gentiles.             

[1] “Common Era.”

[2] I am using the term “Christian” loosely. A genuine disciple of Yeshua would never commit these crimes against others.

[3] Babylon Mystery Religion, p. 55-59, Ralph Woodrow, © 1966, 1981, Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association.

[4] Vol. 4, “Constantine.”

[5] “Unleavened bread.”

[6] Apostolic Fathers, p. 357.

[7] Yochanan (John) 15:12.